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The problem with Kevin McCarthy's response to Jan. 6 investigators

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had signaled his willingness to cooperate with the Jan. 6 investigation. Then he changed his mind.


It was about a month ago when the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack requested information from Republican Rep. Scott Perry. Given the Pennsylvanian's anti-election work with the Trump White House, the appeal from the bipartisan panel was easily justifiable. Perry nevertheless said soon after that he would not cooperate with the investigation.

The same week, investigators asked Republican Rep. Jim Jordan for information. Despite the Ohioan's repeated insistence that he had "nothing to hide," the far-right congressman, whose relevance to the probe is obvious, signaled his intention to ignore the committee's request.

Yesterday, as NBC News reported, it was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's turn.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Wednesday said he would not provide information to the Jan. 6 committee about communications surrounding the attack on the Capitol, despite previously saying he would be willing to discuss a phone conversation he had with former President Donald Trump as the riot unfolded.

By any fair measure, McCarthy has a unique perspective. As Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the select committee's chairman, reminded the GOP leader in a written request yesterday, there are multiple accounts detailing McCarthy's direct communication with Donald Trump during the insurrectionist riot at the Capitol.

What's more, the California Republican had earlier expressed a willingness to answer questions on the matter. NBC News' report added that reporters asked McCarthy last May whether he'd be willing to testify to an outside committee about his Jan. 6 conversation with Trump. The minority leader responded, "Sure."

What's more, McCarthy sat down a few weeks ago with a local news outlet in his district, which asked about his willingness to share information with investigators. "I have been very public, but I wouldn't hide from anything," he responded.

Nevertheless, just hours after the committee made its request, McCarthy balked. "This committee is not conducting a legitimate investigation," the Republican said in a written statement.

The problem with this position is that it's clearly wrong. As we recently discussed, there is a process through which House members create select committees, and it involves the full chamber approving a resolution to create a panel and give it the legal authority to issue subpoenas.

The House held such a vote in June, approved the creation of the committee, and members from both parties were seated in accordance with the resolution. In the months that followed, several federal judges — from district and circuit courts — have recognized the legitimacy of the investigatory committee and its work.

It may make McCarthy feel better to effectively argue that this isn't a real committee, so he's justified in ignoring it, but his assertions don't make it so.

As for what happens now, it's worth emphasizing that the House panel's requests — to McCarthy, Jordan, and Perry — were not subpoenas; they were requests for voluntary cooperation. What will the select committee do now that each of the three have made clear they don't intend to assist with the investigation?

While the next steps are not yet obvious, it's entirely possible the Jan. 6 panel could issue a subpoena intended to compel them to cooperate. As Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California told Rachel on a recent show, such a move is absolutely possible.

Watch this space.